G. Bianco, 2019
Vietnamese poet, Nguyen Phan Que Mai, tells “an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Tran family, set against the backdrop of the VietNam War'' in her first English novel, The Mountains Sing. With its publication date set for March 17th, this novel is already taking the world by storm with its poetic writing and mesmerizing imagery.
Tran Dieu Lan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North of VietNam. Years later in Hà Noi, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Ho Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that will tear not just her beloved country but her family apart. This novel brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves, while showing us the true power of kindness and hope.
As someone who didn’t know a lot about Vietnam’s history, I was astounded by the amount of war and revolution that the country went through over the decades. This novel truly lives up to the main reason I read historical fiction: to learn more about people whose lives were shaped by certain moments in time. The Mountains Sing is a beautiful and realistic look at the hardships people endured during the VietNam War and Land Reforms of the 1950s. The alternating chapters between Huong and her grandmother’s POVs weave together an engaging and haunting story of the struggles and strife certain people had to go through in order to survive. I think that Nguyen Phan Que Mai’s novel portrays an underrepresented perspective in historical fiction and has opened my eyes to life for the Vietnamese people during this time period.
This novel truly shows what war and evil can do to the world. However, even during the bleakest of times, hope and goodness will win out. Throughout both Dieu Lan and Hương’s lives, the reader sees examples of people’s cruelty and kindness in different circumstances and how these moments are mirrored in both the past and present.
This novel shows the harsh realities of war and depicts violent actions enacted against the Tran family. However, beautiful imagery of lotus flowers and delicious descriptions of pho really bring this novel to life and create an engaging story that readers will be enveloped in. I fell in love with both Dieu Lan and Huong and didn't want the story of the Tran family to end.
Poetic and richly woven with Vietnamese proverbs and traditions, The Mountains Sing is a novel that will open your eyes to the different cultures and lifestyles in this world. This novel acts as a love letter of sorts to VietNam and I highly recommend checking this book out to get a glimpse at a monumental time in history from one (or two) people’s perspectives.
*I received an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
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